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Monday, 15 June 2020
Page: 3209

Senator STOKER (Queensland) (21:50): I rise to provide context and to apologise for any genuine hurt caused by a comment I made last Thursday which was raised in this chamber during question time today. The comments made were in response to a question about the closure of Queensland's borders, an issue which has caused many constituents of mine to contact me with heart-wrenching and emotional accounts of the damage that it was causing to them and to their businesses and to their families. I'd heard devastating stories of livelihoods lost, people whose mental health was tenuous because of the financial stress that they were suffering and stories of families struggling to get by, given the loss of their jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries.

I am willing to admit it: I was angry; I still am. I likened the Queensland Premier's refusal to open the borders to choking the Queensland economy. I used an unfortunate turn of phrase. It wasn't premeditated, rehearsed or intended to offend.

Senator Watt interjecting

Senator STOKER: Show some grace, Senator Watt. It was an impromptu comment meant to demonstrate to those people affected by those border closures that someone understood their pain.

Now, some of those opposite have sought to sensationalise that comment beyond its intent. For anyone genuinely hurt or offended, please know that was never my intention. I do apologise for any genuine offence or hurt caused.

But one thing I know is that Labor, and specifically Senator Watt, are not genuinely offended. If they were they would've raised it last week. Instead they waited for a news day where they badly needed a distraction from Labor's corruption allegations. I note that while they are fast to claim outrage when someone who is not part of their political tribe is loose with their language, there is silence—crickets—when a member of the Left does the same thing. I won't repeat my concern about that hypocrisy, which I raised in this chamber last Tuesday, but I did want to put these remarks on the record tonight. Thank you.